Thursday, April 10, 2008

Worldwide Leader meets Masters mystique

There has been great consternation – OK, maybe some questions – among those who consider the Masters and all of its traditions holy about how ESPN will handle its new role as television host of the first two rounds, plus Wednesday’s par-3 event.

The Masters doesn’t do hype.

Sometimes, it seems, that’s all that ESPN does.

But in hoping to expand its global reach, the Masters signed on with The Worldwide Leader for weekday coverage.

It didn’t come without some serious discussions, basically from club chairman Billy Payne, who made it clear that he didn’t want any boo-yahs or nicknames or self-indulgence from ESPN.

To that end, the network is using the CBS talent except for host Mike Tirico, who will handle the role the too blustery for golf Chris Berman typically handles at the U.S. Open. Payne insisted he was not involved in the process of determining which announcers ESPN will use this week.

On a similar point, Gary McCord has said several times that it is not Augusta National’s decision that keeps him out of the CBS broadcast this week. Rather, he has chosen not to be part again to avoid the hullabaloo that would surround his return after his infamous ‘bikini wax’ remark many years ago.

The Masters is changing with the world while doing an admirable job of retaining its old-style charm. You can watch Amen Corner on-line if you wish or even play a computer putting game on the tournament’s website.

Payne admitted Wednesday there has been some consideration of licensing a video game. It would, of course, be Augusta National’s own game, not one incorporated into anyone else’s game.

For most of the world, the Masters will be seen through the ESPN lens these next two days. The network went the warm and cuddly route Wednesday, featuring the kids during its par-3 coverage. I’m guessing it will work hard to do right by the Masters and what the tournament – and the viewers – want.

Let me know what you think of ESPN’s coverage.


Anonymous said...

That par 3 contest yesterday was the silliest looking spectacle I've seen in a while. I watched it for about 10 minutes and then turned off the TV. If I wanted to watch a bunch of toddlers play around, I'd go to the local daycare. While I've been to Augusta, I've never actually seen the par 3 contest, and know I know why it's never been on TV before. I'll be interested to see ESPN's coverage for the next two days. And by the way, while I love the Masters, that mushy piano music gets old after a while. The Masters needs to loosen up and just let ESPN do their thing.